Israel targets Hamas
For the Israeli military, a sprawling network of Hamas tunnels under the Gaza Strip has become a primary target as it aims to defeat the terrorists, experts noted after the army said that its forces had struck 150 "underground targets" in a night-time blitz on Gaza that destroyed "terror tunnels" and “underground combat spaces”. Hamas stormed into southern Israel on October 7, launching raids that Israel says have killed 1,400 people and abducted more than 220 people who are now feared to be held in the tunnels.
Israeli jets have hit parts of the massive tunnel network which Hamas has steadily developed and rebuilt for years. These have been termed “Gaza Metro” by Israeli soldiers and the military has constantly searched for new weapons to destroy the shafts. Some experts say that these extend 500 kilometres (300 miles) under the roughly 40-kilometre-long territory. Israeli daily Maariv called it an “underground hell”.
Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, one of four hostages released so far by Hamas, said that she had been forced to walk in a "spider web" of tunnels. John Spencer of the Modern War Institute at elite US military academy West Point, described “a veritable city underneath the cities on Gaza's surface” saying, "Tunnels will be the vital element of Hamas's guerrilla warfare strategy" against Israeli soldiers.
Some shafts go as deep as 40 metres (130 feet) and are able to withstand 1,000-pound (455-kilo) bombs, as per the Israeli army. John Spencer called the tunnels a "wicked problem" for Israel's military, "for which no perfect solution exists".
John Spencer said Hamas fighters may "move underground, pop up, strike, and pop quickly back into a tunnel".
“Hamas will have already placed its leadership, fighters, headquarters, communication, weapons, and supplies like water, food, ammunition in its tunnel complexes to prepare for the ground assault,” the military expert said.
The tunnels have their own power supply, ventilation and food and water stocks, Mick Ryan, a retired US army general now an analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said.
Hamas can "exploit its subterranean network to move fighters to the right place at the right time -- or to move them away from threats they cannot handle effectively," Mick Ryan said.